Garden to Table and Back Again
Imagine just for a moment being served a salad so crunchy and green you can practically taste the morning dew on the lettuce leaves. But, alas, you over-ordered and you can’t quite finish. The wait-person laughs and tells you not to worry – that your left-overs will join other food wastes, including meat, fish, dairy, cooked vegetables, and even desserts in the big, green Ridan composter out back of the restaurant. This broad variety of table scraps and other kitchen left-overs will be turned into compost, and placed on the restaurant’s garden. This idea intrigues you so much, that you ask for a tour of the facilities. You are introduced to the manager, who is more than happy to show you their set-up.
Science fiction? Some sort of future utopian literature? Not at all. National Trust has chosen several locations, including Churchill’s home, Chartwell House, as sites for Ridan Composters. The set-up is prominently displayed, with signage. Visitors are welcome.
Chartwell House receives over 1,200 visitors daily, many of whom dine in the restaurant or get snacks from the kiosk. Seasonal vegetables are grown onsite, served in the restaurant or used as part of the estate’s catering program. Food waste, including meat products, is placed in the three composters that are on site, and turned into compost. The head gardener, Giles Palmer, stated that he was skeptical at first, but that the compost quality was excellent.
At Chartwell, the food scraps are separated from other sorts of waste, such as cardboard, paper, plastic and metal, in the kitchen. The kitchen bins of food waste are then emptied into the Ridan composters, where the content is processed using aerobic composting methods. As the garbage decays, it heats up naturally and encourages the growth of thermophilic bacteria that helps to break down the particles. CO2 and water evaporate out of the material, along with some ammonia. Humus and a little ammonia is left at the end of two weeks. The compost is then placed in a curing bin for another six to eight weeks. After that, it will be used on the gardens, to grow more delicious vegetables.
The polymers, steel and glass insulation used in Ridan Composters are 100% recycled. The cover and gearbox are made from virgin materials, but all parts of the composters are recyclable. The gearbox is manufactured in Yorkshire. All other materials are fabricated within 20 miles of the Ridan facility.
Ridan composters are ideal for catering kitchens, including hotels, restaurants, schools and businesses. Unfortunately, scaling them down for a single household is not possible because smaller containers would not reach the requisite temperature for the bacterial growth. Perhaps, one day, every neighborhood will have a Ridan composter and folk will be able to bring their kitchen waste to it for processing.